Department of History Graduate Theses

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    Till Impotence Do Us Part: Defining Sexual Normalcy in Seventeenth Century Mexico
    (2024-05-16) Vitella, Josephine; History; van Deusen , Nancy
    In 1699, Thomasa Josepha Garate y Francia filed a marriage annulment against her husband, Pedro Antonio Marroquin de Monte Hermoso before the Bishop of Puebla, Mexico. Thomasa claimed Pedro was impotent and that throughout their four-year marriage, he was never able to have sex with her and consummate the marriage properly. However, like any lawsuit involving the sacrament of marriage, the bishop overseeing the case needed to gather witness testimonies for the plaintiff and defendant. Over the course of the year-long case, both Pedro and Thomasa along with dozens of friends, family, community members of Puebla, doctors, and midwives shared details of the marriage, and in doing so, also shared ideas of what they believed to be normal conduct in the bedroom for men and women. “Till Impotence Do Us Part” explores ideas of ‘normal’ sexuality through abnormal circumstances. Pedro and Thomasa were a normal couple by colonial standards — wealthy, upper-class, and heterosexual. They did not engage in sex for pleasure or try to have sex in devious ways. And yet, despite their normal status, their sexuality was still abnormal. Using both the original annulment suit as well as the appeal Pedro filed upon losing the initial case, “Till Impotence Do Us Part” will consider individual, communal, and medical definitions of normal sexuality.
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    The Nitrate That Shaped the World: A Global History of Indian Saltpetre (1700-1850)
    (2024-05-03) Munshi, Sandip; History; Chowdhury, Amitava; Pande, Ishita
    The central focus of research of this project is saltpetre, the main ingredient for making gunpowder or black powder. Gunpowder played an essential role in shaping the early modern and modern world both politically and economically. It was impossible to produce gunpowder without saltpetre; thus, the importance of saltpetre was paramount during the early modern and later periods. During this period, the primary source of saltpetre was in Bihar (India). Europe never had enough saltpetre deposits to serve the needs of all competing European nations during this period of great imperial competition (1600-1800). Following the need of the European empires, Indian saltpetre became one of the most strategically valuable trading commodities. The demand for gunpowder, a key commodity in global trade including the African and American trades, surged after the 1700s. Concomitantly, the increase also boosted the demand for saltpetre. This project argues that following this great global demand for saltpetre, Indian saltpetre entered the global commodity market and forged a quad-continental trading network encompassing Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The great global demand for saltpetre, its global scarcity, and its availability in India turned Indian saltpetre into a commodity of great historical significance. This project investigates how Indian saltpetre influenced the political and economic activities of the European companies working in India and Indian political and economic authority. This project will show that the immense Indian saltpetre supply and its management enabled England and Europe to produce a huge quantity of gunpowder for trade and war. The gunpowder produced from Indian saltpetre influenced the scale of the African slave trade and helped in the development of the British slave trade centers such as Liverpool and Bristol. This project will further examine how the Indian saltpetre supply influenced the American fur trade, land grab, and American civil war. The main thrust of this project's argument is that influencing important historical events such as British military supremacy, slave trade, the American Civil War, land grabs and the global hunt, Indian saltpetre influenced the course of capitalism. By considering local and global historical causalities and putting local and trans-national archives in dialogue this project aims to look beyond the structuralist and centrist approach to history. It shows how a non-human object like saltpetre influenced grand historical incidents such as the slave trade.
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    Survival Under Extremes: Human, Environmental, and Material Relationships Amidst the Soviet Famines in Ukraine
    (2024-04-26) Skubii, Iryna; History; Manley, Rebecca
    Famine does not emerge in a vacuum but takes place in specific political, social, and natural environments in which all elements are intertwined. These interconnections played out vividly during the Soviet famines of 1921–1923, 1932–1933, and 1946–1947 in Ukraine. Each of these famines imposed significant pressures on the human, natural, and material worlds. As pivotal events in Ukrainian and Soviet history, they became major human existential crises of the twentieth century. This thesis seeks to complicate the understanding of human survival practices during the famines. Survival depended on a number of important factors, including human agency and the availability of resources. The study explores what resources were available to the starving across domestic and environmental spaces, such as kitchen gardens, fields, forests, water reservoirs and wetlands, and how the starving made use of them. Moving around the household as well as environmental and industrial landscapes, it further explores the significance of food waste in the survival practices of the starving. By ‘following’ the traces of waste in urban and rural landscapes, including, among others, dumpsters, slaughterhouses, cattle cemeteries and railway stations, the thesis charts the topography of waste and illuminates the critical changes in human–food and human–waste relationships in times of extremes. Looking at the larger scale of interactions with the environment, the study examines how famines impacted human-animal relationships and how Soviet state policies affected the livelihoods of animals, both domestic and wild. Taking into account the devastating impact of famines on animals, the study suggests approaching famines as multispecies catastrophes. Lastly, focusing on material objects as resources for famine survival, e.g. household items, clothes, coins, and jewellery objects, this research explores the changes in the essential meaning of things amidst times of extreme crises and violence. Focusing on the entangled histories of famine survival in times of extreme crisis, the study explores the impact of losses brought by famine experiences on individual and public memory.
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    Xingyiquan in Twentieth Century China: Martial Arts Myths, Practice, and Nation Building
    Bateman, Francis; History; Hill, Emily
    In the early 20th century, the Chinese martial art Xingyiquan was promoted by the Nationalist government in an attempt to instill nationalist and militarist values in its citizens. This paper explores how Xingyiquan came to be leveraged in this way, why it was employed over other martial arts, and how Xingyiquan training changed as the practice moved from a folk practice to a national institution. Xingyiquan has not been subject to sustained study by English language academics. Thus, this paper relies on Xingyiquan training manuals from the early 20th century as well as interviews with a Xingyiquan lineage holder who provided more context as to the methods within Xingyi practice. While the changing political landscape determined how Xingyiquan was applied and understood, the function of Xingyiquan was always translated through its techniques and enabled by its history and myth. The straightforward techniques of Xingyiquan enabled it to be better leveraged by the Nationalist government than more complex styles like Taichi, which were more difficult to disseminate through the population. This suggests that there is interplay between the formal elements of martial arts practice and its application as a cultural or political force.
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    Prisoner Aid Beyond Borders: A Transnational History of Prisoner Aid Societies in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, 1930-1970
    McNeill, Katie-Marie; History; Dubinsky, Karen; Brison, Jeff
    This dissertation examines the histories of prisoner aid societies, which were (and continue to be) volunteer-based organizations that support incarcerated people and their families, across Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States between 1930 and 1970. More specifically, my research compares the policies and practices of societies from Ontario, New York, Victoria, and New Zealand, while also exploring societies’ transnational interactions and sharing of information. The mid-twentieth century saw an increase in the volume and variety of activities that prisoner aid societies in each of the four areas of study conducted both inside and outside of prisons. Treated together, the histories of prisoner aid societies in the key commonwealth nations of Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, and in the close neighbour of the United States offer an opportunity to explore how citizens engaged with justice systems, the role that volunteers played in the rehabilitation of prisoners, and how prisoner aid societies advocated for change in all levels of their respective legal systems. This project is grounded in archival research from each of the four areas of study from national, state, provincial, organizational, and personal record collections.